Symbolical and Numerological Elements in the Shield of Achilles Compared with Plato’s Cosmology
-It’s not carrying over from word the references. Apologies, will add later.
(c) Copyright, all rights reserved
The famed shield of Achilles is a mysterious, yet well-known chapter from Homer’s classic, The Iliad. Within the chapter is contained an entire microcosmic representation of the Greek worldview, replete with unique numerological significations, as well as other symbolic motifs, intended to convey through it’s imagery an entire hierarchical cosmology. The purpose of this paper will be to examine the specific numbers and symbols used, and to compare it with other roughly contemporary traditions, such as Plato’s cosmological explanations. In so doing, the intent is to achieve a greater understanding of the Greek mind as it viewed the totality of reality, comparing earlier mythological oral poetry with it’s later offspring, philosophy itself.1
The shield of Achilles and the rest of his armor embody the Greek conception of the hero as intimately and magically connected to his armor. The Greek warrior sought glory first and foremost, or timé, and the path to glory was one of successful warfare. Literary critic Kenneth John Atchity explains, “Achilles is the epitome of Iliadic man. The two artifacts which belong uniquely to him, Hephaestos’ shield and Peleus’ spear define not only the identity of Achilles, but also the essence of human nature as Homer conceives of it.”2 As is evident in Homer, the individualistic focus of the Greeks upon the singular hero is unique. Historian Michael Grant comments:
With lively, yet disengaged comprehension, each personage is depicted as a distinct individual [in the Iliad]. The most arresting is Achilles, who possesses in extreme degree the all the virtues and faults of the Homeric hero, and almost completely embodies the heroic code of honor….[Homer] dedicated his entire existence, with all the aid that his birth and wealth and physical prowess could afford him, to an unceasing, violently competitive, vengeful struggle to win applause…3 Continue reading